As I dove in for warm up in the choppy surf yesterday, my goal for this race completely changed: just survive the swim. Come out alive, and I'll be happy. This may sound dramatic to some of the Aussies who are ocean swimming experts, but this was my first beach start swim and I was really scared! It was the choppiest, waviest swim I've ever done and the girls were really rough, as usual. It was one big 1500 meter loop, out 300 meters through the surf, along the beach, and back. I don't think I saw one buoy the whole time, I was just frantically following feet in front of me, and lucky I had lots to follow! I was so relieved when I came out of the water and saw that I wasn't actually too far behind the leaders. There was a 200 meter run through deep sand to get back to transition so I tried my best to make up as much time as possible, but running all out in sinking sand after that swim was not easy!
I jumped on my bike and could see a lead pack of 6 about 10 seconds up the road, so I got to work with a few other girls and we caught them by the end of the first lap. The bike course went up and over a big hill, out and back, 7 times and there was a huge headwind on the way home. Daniela Ryf and Nicky Samuels made a break uphill on the second lap and we made the mistake of letting them go. We worked pretty well together as a group, but were still loosing time to these 2 super-cyclists. To make the day even better, a torrential downpour started on the 5th lap, which made the turnarounds very slippery and my breaks were not working AT ALL. New goal: survive the bike. Just make it onto the run without crashing. The winds also picked up and our group slowed down quite a bit in these last few laps. I think this is where we lost the most time to the 2 leaders. Again, I was very relieved to get off my bike and start chasing those girls down!
My legs felt very heavy and flat on the run, but I imagine everyone was feeling quite similar after the challenging bike. The run was equally as difficult, up and over the same hill 8 times. I tried to use the downhills to get my leg speed up and bridge the gap to Emma and Barbara but my legs just weren't working! I was running solo for most of the way and could see Vendula Frintova making up time on each lap, she was flying! On the 3rd lap, Patrick told me that I had a penalty, so I checked the board as I ran by and stopped to take my 15 seconds. They looked at me funny and didn't start counting, so I started counting for them. After about 8 seconds, they told me that I actually didn't have a penalty and they didn't know why I was there... it said "4 1" on the board with a huge gap between the 4 and the 1, so it looked like number 4 had a penalty when it was actually 41. They really need a better system!! So I charged out, slightly frustrated, with one lap to go. I guess the bonus of my fake penalty was that I got a 10 second rest. Frintova caught me on the last turn around and we ran side-by-side for last km. I out-sprinted her in a nearly-photo-finish, and crossed the line in 4th place. Most importantly: I survived!
So needless to say, this was definitely the hardest course I've ever raced on. I'm happy with where I finished for this time of year, although never completely satisfied with 4th place! It was my first race since Budapest last September, so it was good to go through the motions and put in a good effort before the WCS starter in Sydney in a few weeks. We are staying in Caloundra, where we have been training for the past 2 weeks. It's a great place to be and we have an awesome little group here: Patrick, Sam (massage therapist), John (physiologist), Jeff, Kyla and Alex, who it leaving today to go back to school. We'll miss her!